Acts of the Apostles 4: 32-35 (NIV)
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No-one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
Luke has inserted “progress reports” through Acts regarding the status of the church. This is one of them. (The last five verses of chapter 2 present another.)
So soon after Easter 2016, a tragic scene in Gethsemane remains vivid in my mind: when Jesus was arrested, “all the disciples deserted him and fled” (Matthew 26: 56b). Mark’s Gospel similarly records “everyone deserted him and fled” (14: 50).
How different is the situation presented in this “progress report” passage of Acts chapter 4! “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all” (verse 33). We know that events referred to here follow closely after the amazing visitation of the Holy Spirit upon the young church on the day of Pentecost.
As we read, we should not be surprised by the transformation in these recently-intimidated Apostles and other disciples. This is the change we associate with the empowering of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles could take no credit for the great power with which they spoke. It was all the work of the Holy Spirit. Subsequent to Pentecost the Holy Spirit remained with them and in them in a very tangible way: “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4: 31).
Do you hear the word of God spoken boldly today? Do you hear people “(continue) to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” “with great power”?
We in the secular West have come to expect attacks on the church and on the Christian faith in general. But are those who today preach and proclaim the good news of the resurrection of a crucified Christ at any greater risk of being “shut down” than were the Apostles in those first months after the resurrection? Despite persecution by both Roman and Jewish authorities, the church continued to grow and the word continued to spread.
Have we in the West lost our zeal for the Gospel? Surely not! “Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4: 12)!
Are we relying too much on the world’s processes and procedures? We must heed the words of the prophet Zechariah: “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty” (4: 6).
We must continue to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. For,
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10: 14-15).